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Posted by Target Ovarian Cancer on Thursday 10 July 2014

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Ovarian Cancer held their Annual General Meeting on 1 July.

The APPG was set up in 2010 to provide a forum for MPs and Peers to discuss ovarian cancer related issues; to raise areas of concern with government or other policy makers; to raise the profile of ovarian cancer in Parliament; and to seek opportunities to help improve survival and quality of life for women with ovarian cancer. Membership now stands at 63. 

Chaired by Sharon Hodgson MP, members conducted formal AGM business, reviewed progress over the past year and agreed a programme of activity for the year ahead. 

Sharon Hodgson MP was re-elected as Chair and Lord Clement-Jones, Tim Farron MP, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP were re-elected as Vice-Chairs. Members also elected Steve Brine MP as a Vice-Chair (Steve co-chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Breast Cancer). Russell Brown MP was re-elected as Treasurer. 

Key highlights of the past twelve months included:

Be Clear on Cancer

The APPG on Ovarian Cancer had campaigned hard to have ovarian cancer included in the Be Clear on Cancer campaigns, with success in a local level pilot programme early in 2013, followed by a regional programme in the North West of England in early 2014, which saw the first TV adverts for ovarian cancer symptoms awareness. The evaluation of the regional campaign is expected to be completed in October 2014. 

APPG members have continued to advocate for the regional campaign to be escalated to national level in England, including a meeting with the National Clinical Director for Cancer Mr Sean Duffy, and a meeting with Minister of Health Jane Ellison MP. Members agreed to keep a focus on achieving a national symptoms awareness programme, as well as ensuring that cancer symptoms awareness generally continues to be a priority for the new parliament. 

In Scotland, the Scottish Executive has already confirmed that ovarian cancer will be included in the Detect Cancer Early programme; in Northern Ireland, thanks to the campaigning of Una Crudden, supported by Target Ovarian Cancer, the Public Health Agency is running an ovarian cancer awareness campaign in 2014; in Wales there are currently no known plans for a campaign. 

Familial breast and ovarian cancer

For the first time, a joint meeting was convened this year of the APPG on Ovarian Cancer and the APPG on Breast Cancer, to discuss ‘improving services for people with familial breast and ovarian cancer’. Speakers included many eminent medical experts as well as Sarah Thornber, who had undergone a preventative mastectomy and was subsequently diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. 

A template letter was then drafted for MPs to send to GPs in their constituencies alerting them to the NICE guidelines and flagging up the importance of considering the male line, and a letter for MPs to send to Strategic Clinical Networks asking for a report on how the new NICE guidelines are being implemented in their networks. 

David Lammy MP was also featured in a double-page spread in The Times in February talking about his family’s experience of ovarian cancer, and the importance of looking at the male side of the family when considering family history and genetic testing. 

Access to drugs

Avastin had been the topic of the 2013 AGM, following which Sharon Hodgson MP wrote to the Secretary of State for Health, asking him to confirm arrangements for women who are currently receiving treatment through the Cancer Drugs Fund, and arrangements for new ovarian cancer patients. 

Norman Lamb MP, Minister of State, replied: “We will ensure arrangements are in place to protect individual patients receiving treatment through the Cancer Drugs Fund, including those with ovarian cancer, as the planned end of the fund approaches. We are exploring ways in which new patients can continue to benefit from innovative cancer drugs at a cost that represents value to the National Health Service.” 

In October 2013, the Prime Minister announced that the Cancer Drugs Fund will be extended to March 2016, thus enabling most women to access Avastin for first line therapy and for a first recurrence.

Next meeting

The next meeting of the APPG will be on 3 December 2014 4.30-6.30pm. The topic will be Awareness and Earlier Diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer. The APPG also plans to meet during March 2015, Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. 

Sharon Hodgson MP said “I am delighted that the APPG on Ovarian Cancer has again made significant progress over the past year to raise awareness of ovarian cancer and the need for action to be taken to improve diagnosis. I’d like to thank all officers and members of the APPG for their ongoing commitment to improving outcomes for women with ovarian cancer and their families. I’d also like to acknowledge the many inspirational women who come to Parliament over the last year to meet with us and share their experiences and advocate for change.”